Erinn Hines, left, with two 4-H'ers.

UConn Extension intern Erinn Hines, left, with two 4-H’ers.

According to a 2012 survey of employers conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace, an internship is the single most important credential for recent college graduates in their job search.

The UConn Extension/4-H Internship Program was created to offer paid career-oriented summer internships to undergraduate students.

Students take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in the field, while assisting extension educators with program delivery.

“We’ve focused on underclassmen as it is very difficult for them to secure summer internships in these specialized career fields,” says Paul Gagnon, the College’s career consultant with UConn Center for Career Development.

Students apply for the competitive internships, and if selected, they complete a learning agreement that includes an outline of the summer project objectives and expected outcomes. In addition, each student receives mid-summer and end-of-summer evaluations and must take a non-credit notation course that requires a summary paper. While students do not receive academic credit for the course, upon completion the internship is noted on their official transcript.

“Last summer I was an intern at the Windham County Extension Center,” says Holly Lewis, who recently completed her junior year in the Department of Allied Health Sciences. “I split my time between 4-H STEM workshops, the 4-H county fair, agriculture research and gardening. I planned team building and science-based activities that we used at day camps throughout eastern Connecticut.”

Lewis continues, “I researched the dry matter intake of dairy cows, beef and goats, and sampled pastures and recorded information on the management of thirteen farms. Assisting Joyce Meader [extension dairy/livestock educator], we produced data for the farmers to use in future feeding plans for their livestock. Once a week, I helped maintain and learn about caring for an extension garden in the Willimantic School District. I also assisted with the planning, advertisement and running of the fair.”

UConn Extension summer interns Luke Gersz, left, and Will Teas use their smart phones to collect GPS data at the Middlesex County Extension Center.

UConn Extension summer interns Luke Gersz, left, and Will Teas use their smart phones to collect GPS data at the Middlesex County Extension Center.

Says Erinn Hines, “During my time at the internship, I worked alongside my supervisor, Margaret Grillo [extension educator], to develop educational programs for New Haven/Middlesex County 4-H.” Hines is entering her senior year in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “I gathered curriculum for Discover 4-H, a monthly STEM activity email subscription. I also helped implement a healthy living program for the New Haven/Middlesex county 4-H Fair in August, encouraging families to incorporate more activity into their daily life. Aside from these projects, I worked with my supervisor throughout the summer to prepare for the fair. I’m looking forward to returning to the extension center this summer.”

“It’s been very helpful that Erinn is a former 4-H’er, because she was very familiar with the program,” says Grillo. “This summer we’re developing curriculum for a new science program for youth ages 7 to 12 called Discover Science through 4-H.

The internships are funded through donations to the UConn Extension held by the UConn Foundation. For summer 2016, ninety students applied for twenty-six possible slots in a variety of extension programs throughout the state. After evaluation of applicants’ skills, interests and geographical issues, fourteen internships were awarded. Collaborating with Gagnon to facilitate the program are Michael O’Neill, associate dean and associate director for UConn Extension; Bonnie Burr, department head and assistant director of UConn Extension; and Marilyn Gould, administrative assistant.

“We’re really seeing a great interest from faculty, staff and students,” says O’Neill. “We receive requests from extension offices and, starting year, we have accepted requests from outside companies looking for interns skilled and interested in the areas served by UConn Extension. We are reaching out to alumni and businesses to help increase funding and expand the program.”

John McDonald, a psychology major and urban studies minor, will graduate in December 2016. He interned during the summer and fall of 2015 with Laura Brown, extension educator in community and economic development a t the Fairfield County Extension Center. “I conducted a literature review of greenways and multi-use trails in support of the Naugatuck River Greenway (NRG) economic impact analysis and reviewed literature on environmental observation in support of the First Impressions community exchange program. I attended meetings of the NRG steering committee and presented with Laura at the fall extension seminar.”

“This is another great way for us to support our students and give them a head start in their careers,” O’Neill notes. “We are also finding that as employers get to know our interns, they are discovering the benefits of working with the students.”

Will Teas, a senior and intern with UConn CLEAR’s NEMO program, helped to install a new bioretention area at the Storrs Friends Meetinghouse on Hunting Lodge Road in Storrs. He is helping the NEMO program develop resources for communities faced with new statewide stormwater regulations this summer, but he took a day to help install of this natural stormwater management practice. The bioretention area will serve as a filter for stormwater runoff from the driveway and new parking lot before it enters Eagleville Brook.

Will Teas, a senior and intern with UConn CLEAR’s NEMO program, helped to install a new bioretention area at the Storrs Friends Meetinghouse on Hunting Lodge Road in Storrs. He is helping the NEMO program develop resources for communities faced with new statewide stormwater regulations this summer, but he took a day to help install of this natural stormwater management practice. The bioretention area will serve as a filter for stormwater runoff from the driveway and new parking lot before it enters Eagleville Brook.

Internships for summer 2016 include:

Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) MS4 Stormwater Management Internship (Middlesex County Extension Center). William Tease, natural resources and the Environment major, is working with UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) NEMO  program team to develop resources for communities facing new stormwater management (“MS4”) regulations. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) has developed robust new regulations for Connecticut communities and institutions who manage a separate stormwater system, and CLEAR is developing workshops, websites and other materials to support communities in meeting those requirements.

Center for Land Use Education and Research and CT ECO Geospatial Internship (Middlesex County Extension Center). Luke Gersz, Natural Resources and the Environment major, is working with the UConn CLEAR geospatial team to advance the map catalog part of the CT ECO  website. CT ECO is a partnership between UConn CLEAR and CT DEEP to make Connecticut’s natural resource geospatial information available.

Community Nutrition Programming Intern (Fairfield County Extension Center). Julia Cobuzzi, allied health sciences  major, is working in community nutrition programming in Fairfield County and will have the opportunity to work with two federal nutrition programs,  the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education).

Emergency Preparedness Intern (UConn, Avery Point). Thomas Martella, cognitive science major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is working with a diverse group from the Department of Extension and with town officials, and will gain experience in creating/editing videos, developing script and posting information on a website. This effort is required as Connecticut’s coastal communities face increasing risks due to storm and flood events, yet attitudes and actions toward emergency preparedness and evacuations are often lackadaisical.

Sustainable Food Systems Research Intern – Buy Local Initiatives and Marketing Approaches (Tolland County Extension Center). Anne Page, finance major in UConn’s School of Business, is conducting a literature review on public education strategies that promote buy local behavior in direct and institutional markets, forming a foundational piece of research for future iterations of UConn Extension’s CT 10% Campaign and the Live Local! projects. The office is a shared work space, where there is exciting interaction with team members that work on FoodCorps, CT Food Justice VISTA Project  and the CT 10% Campaign.

Invasive Plant internship (Storrs). Kelsey Brennan, individualized major in sustainable agriculture in the College, is assisting with the development, coordination and implementation of numerous invasive plant management activities in Connecticut, including prevention, early detection, rapid response, monitoring, control (including biological control of the invasive plants mile-a-minute weed and purple loosestrife) and disposal. The intern will primarily work with members of the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) but will also gain  experience in interacting with scientists and other educators in the field to learn about non-native invasives.

By Kim Colavito Markesich